Sounding Shakespeare: acts of reading in Cavell and Derrida

Alfano, Chiara (2012) Sounding Shakespeare: acts of reading in Cavell and Derrida. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Philosophy has always turned to literature, but its engagement with Shakespeare in
particular has been problematic. Stanley Cavell and Jacques Derrida do better than most
other philosophical readers to meet the three criteria for worthwhile philosophical
engagement with Shakespeare recently outlined by Martha Nussbaum: namely, that it
should actually do philosophy, that it should illuminate the world of the plays, and that
it should account for why literature can do something for philosophy that philosophy
cannot do for itself. Cavell’s and Derrida’s acts of reading Shakespeare are, however,
marked by a seemingly unphilosophical aural sensitivity. This thesis argues that we will
only begin to grasp their singular and radical understanding of the relationship between
literature and philosophy once we get to the bottom of these auricular preoccupations.
The first part will show that in Cavell’s readings of Shakespeare the figure of the ear
and actual process of listening not only mark “separateness,” but are also instrumental
in helping us to “acknowledge.” Although Derrida does not listen for separateness but
différance, the second part argues that for him too the ear both actually and figurally
inaugurates an act of reading which not only blurs the borders between the
philosophical and the literary, but also fundamentally changes the way we relate the one
to the other. The way Derrida and Cavell listen to Shakespeare, therefore, suggests three
criteria to be added to Nussbaum’s. First, the philosopher’s act of reading must resonate
beyond the conventional boundaries of philosophy and literature. Second, a
philosopher’s account needs to be based on a textual model describing how the very
encounter between text and reader can become part of the philosophical endeavour.
Third, this realisation must be internalised in the very way philosophy is written.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR2199 English renaissance (1500-1640) > PR2894 The drama. Individual authors. Shakespeare, William. General treatises, essays, etc. Comprehensive. English. General works
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2013 10:52
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2015 12:50
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/43211

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